The Georgia Supreme Court lifted COVID-related restrictions on jury trials Tuesday, clearing the way for jury selections to resume.
Last week, Chief Judge of Glynn County Superior Court Stephen Scarlett issued an order setting a deadline for discovery exchanges and plea offers in all pending jail cases on March 25, with a status conference on March 29 and jury selection set to begin on April 26. Trials are slated to start on April 28 and continue through May 7.
Jury selection will take place in the Selden Park gym, which Scarlett designated as an annex building of the Glynn County Courthouse, to allow for social distancing. Jurors will also be required to wear masks.
Courts have remained open statewide over the last year, but the number of people required to congregate indoors for jury selection posed a risk of spreading COVID-19.
In the Supreme Court order lifting jury trial restriction, Chief Judge Harold Melton also urged all courts to conduct proceeding remotely as much as they possibly can.
“Where remote proceedings are not practicable or lawful, courts are reminded that in-person proceedings must be conducted in full compliance with public health guidance and the other requirements set forth in this order and in light of local conditions,” Melton’s order states.
“In particular, courts should manage case calendars to minimize the number of participants gathering both in the courtroom and in common areas outside of courtrooms.”
Ron Adams, clerk of Glynn County Superior Court, added that grand jury proceedings are set to resume as well.
“We summoned and seated a new grand jury for the March term, and so I anticipate summoning jurors to jury trials in the near term,” Adams said.
The statewide court system attempted to start up jury selection early this year, Adams said, but a spike in COVID-19 cases put a stop to that.
“In fact, we had produced jury summons to go out and had actually delivered them to the mailroom, and then we got the notice that we weren’t having trials and we had to go retrieve them,” Adams said. “It would have been confusing for the jurors and expensive to mail them and another notice saying ‘we’re not going to have that after all.’”